Friday, May 24, 2019

The Fish Factory Special


Craigslist is a place that leads to interesting finds. If you spend enough time on it, you’ll know how to search for specific items, particularly from people that don’t know what they have. Just when Daniel Beckstead thought he was done with the e30 lifestyle, a 1988 BMW 325is popped up into his life that was in dire need of some TLC.

After a short test drive, we knocked the price down to $2200. The cat was in the bag…or so we thought.

The ad for the car was listed in the fashion of most people who don’t care about old cars: The car was a “4 cylinder with a racing chip” and the title for the ad said the car was “fast and furious.” Clearly these are taglines for a car owned by an enthusiast. With a list price of $2500 dollars, a 5 speed manual, 224k on the clock and what looked to be 15 inch Euroweaves wheels, the car was certainly worth a look.

A few slow-to-respond emails later, Daniel and I were on our way to a fish market in the industrial part of San Francisco at 6am on a Saturday. The man who owned the car said that was the only time he could show the car. When we arrived, we gave the car a good once over to find that it had Bilstein/H&R suspension, along with a set of aftermarket sway bars and a few other performance goodies. Clearly someone knew a thing or two about this car, but it wasn’t the guy who owned it. There was a little rust near the sunroof, but to be expected on a car pushing 30 years old. The man selling the car simply told us to go drive it and didn’t even bother to come with us. It turns out he had bought a brand new 3-series and wasn’t interested in the old white car he had for sale. After a short test drive, we knocked the price down to $2200. The cat was in the bag…or so we thought.

A couple hours later, the car’s owner called Daniel and said someone else came to see the car and offered more than the asking price. We were a bit upset as a deposit was placed, and that was the entire point of waking up so early on a Saturday morning to see the car. After a bit of negotiating, it was agreed that the extra 300 dollars would be paid and the car would come home with us. The man asked us why we didn’t bring the full amount of cash if we were willing to buy the car that day. Who would have thought 6am on a Saturday morning isn’t normal bank teller hours to withdraw over 500 dollars? But maybe that’s just me.

Within an hour of owning the car, the transformation began. First came an iS lip spoiler and Recaro SRD seat from the parts bin. The big to-do with these old m20 powered e30’s is to do the timing belt ASAP, so the next week the whole front end of the motor was overhauled to make sure there were no overheating issues in the midst of summer.

As winter rolled around, it was time to get the rust around the sunroof patched. Rust is the cancer of the car world, if not stopped in its tracks, it will lead to world of hurt for the check book. A few weeks later and the car was out of the body shop. Another round of Craigslist perusing led to a complete set of plastic bumpers in the matching Alpine White hue, so on those went too. Recently a whole host of modifications have been done to the car to take it up a notch (see list below).

Daniel has owned the car less than a year, and it has made a rather quick transformation from an e30 that was left in a fish house to rot, to a fun weekend toy that has been fairly reliable despite an unknown past. Out of curiosity we recently ran a CarFax report to see if we could figure out more about the car’s past. The odometer was broken when Daniel bought the car, and he’s probably put at least 8,000 miles on the car. It turns out the odometer had broken sometime during 2012, so for all we know, this car may be pushing 300,000 miles on the motor and chassis. This is certainly a testament to the build quality of these old BMW’s.

While spending a pretty penny on an old car seems asinine, it should be noted that the e30 has gone the way of its older sibling, the 2002. By that I mean finding a reasonably priced, clean example is getting tougher and tougher. People realize these are sweet little cars that offer a good mix of power, handling, and creature comforts, so they’re getting snatched up quickly. However, when a car always brings a smile to your face despite the hiccups and quirks along the way, that’s when you know you’ve got a good one…even if it does leak oil on the driveway.



1988 BMW 325is SPECS

  • MarkD ECU Chip
  • Ansa Sport Exhaust
  • Lightened M20 Flywheel
  • Z3 Short Shifter
  • Bilstein Sport Shocks w/H&R OE Sport Springs
  • Racing Dynamics Sway Bars
  • KMAC Camber Plates
  • E30 M3 Steering Rack Conversion
  • Sparco Front Strut Tower Brace
  • Staggered Alpina Wheels, 16×7 front & 16×8 Rear with 205/50/16 BF Goodrich Sport Comp 2 Tires (Street Setup)
  • TR Motorsport C1 Wheels, 15×8 Square Setup with 205/55/15 Yokohama S. Drive Tires (Autocross Setup)
  • M-Tech 1 Rear Spoiler
  • Plastic Bumper Conversion
  • RyanG iS Lip Splitter
  • Euro Rear Filler Plate
  • Alpina Tach Strip
  • ZHP Weighted Knob & Suede Shift Boot
  • Recaro SRD Driver’s Seat
  • Alpina 3-Spoke 360mm Steering Wheel


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